Feeds

Phages: The powerful new bio-ammo in superbug war

Keep calm and carry on research

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

They're the most abundant form of life on Earth – they have astonishing properties – and we know bugger-all about them.

Bacteriophages were only discovered in 1912, and the Red Army and the Wehrmacht both carried phage water as a bacterial treatment. Then antibiotics came along and science ignored bacteriophages for a very long time. Apart from research at one institute in Georgia, very little science was done for 60 years. Now, phages are being re-appraised in the fight against infection: bacteria are a phage's natural enemy, and with antibiotics becoming increasingly ineffective, we need the little critters more than ever.

A bacteriophage

Israeli scientists at the Sackler Faculty of Medicine in Tel Aviv have established in principle the technique of ensuring bacteria do not retain their resistance to antibiotics.

"Unlike conventional bacteriophage therapy, the system does not rely on the phage's ability to kill pathogens in the infected host, but instead, to deliver genetic constructs into the bacteria, and thus render them sensitive to antibiotics prior to host infection," they note in the abstract to their paper, Reversing Bacterial Resistance to Antibiotics by Phage-Mediated Delivery of Dominant Sensitive Genes, here.

"Genetically altered phages can be developed for any bacterium and used in hospital settings to reverse antibiotic resistance in bacteria that cause hospital-acquired infections," the Wall Street Journal notes.

If successful it calls a halt to the arms race between antibiotic-resistant bugs, and superbugs (such as MRSA), and the pharmaceutical industry's ever more powerful bunker-busting antibiotics. The NHS has trialled phages as protection against MRSA (Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a variant of Staphylococcus) noting their success. Phage treatment was used to guard wounds. Startups such as Fixed Phage, a spin-out from Scotland's Strathclyde University, describes it as "not the end of the battle, but it is an endless supply of ammunition to fight the war".

Which is very timely. Last week, supermarket science tabloid Nature [surely some mistake? Ed] splashed with news of "a totally resistant TB strain", prompting alarmist headlines around the world. And a "calm down dearies" from the World Health Organisation.

We expect the phage story to get rather less media attention. Pity. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
SCREW YOU, Russia! NASA lobs $6.8bn at Boeing AND SpaceX to run space station taxis
Musk charging nearly half as much as Boeing for crew trips
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
India's MOM Mars mission makes final course correction
Mangalyaan probe will feel the burn of orbital insertion on September 24th
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.